No matter who we are or where we’re from, most of us have at least a few cherished holiday traditions that we come back to year after year. Maybe it’s loading the family in the car to hunt down the perfect tree, or reading the same book right before bed on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s hiding a potato wedge in the Christmas tree and seeing how long it takes the other family members to find it.
Wait — you don’t hide a potato wedge in the tree?
To be fair, my family never did that one either. It was actually featured on a list I recently came across on the internet entitled “Weirdest Family Holiday Traditions,” a collection that included the story of a much-maligned fruitcake that had marked 36 years of being gifted and re-gifted by generations of one family, and one man’s admission that every holiday his otherwise-perfectly-normal family get-together includes a contest in which relatives compete to see who can smash an orange in another person’s face the hardest.
Truth be told, while my family has plenty of wonderful traditions, none of them seem particularly weird — or at least I don’t tend to think of them that way. Weird, I guess, is almost always a matter of perspective. I do recall a certain Willie Nelson Christmas album that always went into heavy rotation right around Dec. 1, and that this particular album had a scratch on it right in the middle of Willie’s warbling rendition of “White Christmas.” The scratch caused the record to skip every time it was played, and eventually the song didn’t sound right without the skip (If I recall correctly, it went: “You’ll be do—, you’ll be do—, you’ll be do —[someone nudges record needle], you’ll be dooooing alright, with your Christ-ah-mas of whiiiite…”).
There were other oddities too, I suppose. For several years when my sister and I were children, our family attended Christmas Mass at a church with a prominent and rather lifelike nativity scene set up near the front. I’m not sure why the creator of this particular scene chose to do this, but for some reason one of the wise men was sculpted with his mouth wide open and his eyes shut, as if he was very angrily yelling. What’s worse, perhaps in an attempt to hide this, whoever arranged the figures always placed the furious wise man facing slightly away from the congregation and toward the fake cows and sheep in the back of the display. Naturally, my sister and I took great delight every year in coming up with background stories centered on why the wise man was angry at the cows and sheep, and what he was yelling at them.
I suppose some people might consider that strange, but it’s not like we were running around decking the halls with potato wedges for goodness sakes.
This year, of course, the holidays are going to be looking a little bit different for most. Almost all of us are going to be missing someone or something, whether it’s a family member or friend who can’t be with us or a tradition that just isn’t the same over Zoom. We’re going to make do, like we all have been for so many months now, and we’re going to remain thankful for what we still have. And maybe this year’s sacrifices will serve to remind us all just how special all of those traditions are, from the solemn to the silly.